DuPage leaders outline what they want from Springfield
An organization representing DuPage County's towns and villages wants Illinois lawmakers to protect local tax revenue, consolidate public safety pensions and approve a state capital spending bill.
Those are among the top issues the DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference will be lobbying for during the 2019 state legislative session. The group says it's prepared to work with the new administration and state legislators to solve problems.
"It appears there might be an opportunity right now with the new leadership in Springfield," said Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico, vice president of the conference. "There seems to an honest attempt for the governor to include members of both parties and the municipalities. He does seem to be reaching out and trying to get input. So I think it's important to seize that moment."
Willowbrook Mayor Frank Trilla, who serves as director of the conference's legislative committee, said there are several priorities the group wants lawmakers to address. One is to "ensure sustainable municipal budgets" by making sure revenue generated by local residents and businesses stays local.
To fill gaps in its budget, Illinois last year threatened a 10 percent reduction in the amount of state income tax revenue municipalities and counties receive. The state ended up taking 5 percent of the local government distributive fund dollars.
DuPage's municipalities and county government lost millions of dollars in revenue as a result of the cut. Trilla said it's money that could have been used to pay for essential services, including police and fire protection, road repairs, garbage collection and snow plowing.
"We need to make sure we're getting the money that's promised to us," he said.
The conference also argues that improving Illinois' infrastructure will bolster the state's economy, create jobs and attract news businesses. So it's calling for a state capital bill to fix roads, bridges and public transit.
Trilla said the last time Illinois had a capital bill was a decade ago.
"There's a lot of roads and bridges, and you've got transit," Trilla said. "Ten years without funding puts a lot of stress on all those different things that affect all of us."
Chirico said the time has come to make improvements across the state. "We need to reinvest in our infrastructure before it becomes way too expensive to fix," he said.
When it comes to police and fire pensions, the conference says the existing system is unsustainable because unfunded pension liabilities are continuing to grow significantly. Therefore, it's supporting a proposal to consolidate 663 municipal public safety pension funds into a single multiple-employer pension fund management system.
If approved, the change would reduce unfunded pension liabilities, stabilize retirement systems, and protect against cuts to basic services, according to the conference.
As part of its 2019 legislative action program, the conference also is advocating for:
• Preserving local authority by giving municipalities the ability to govern themselves and make decisions at the local level. That includes removing the distinction between home-rule and non-home-rule communities, which give "all municipalities crucial local control and decision-making ability."
• Making "common-sense" changes to the state's workers' compensation law to preserve benefits for municipal employees and lower costs for residents.